Friday, May 1, 2015

R&B Legend Ben E King Dies at 76

Ben E King, the R&B and soul singer best known for Stand By Me, whose honeyed vocal tones helped first popularise the genres with mass pop audiences, has died aged 76.

King, who first found celebrity in his early 20s with the Drifters, died on Thursday, his publicist, Phil Brown, told the Associated Press, saying only that the death was from natural causes.

While he enjoyed long if sometimes intermittent success, with other big hits including There Goes My Baby and Spanish Harlem, King remains most closely associated with Stand By Me, a simple and plaintive number the singer co-wrote with the famed production and songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

It made No 4 in the US charts on its release in 1961, and No 1 in the UK in 1987 when it was featured on the Rob Reiner coming-of-age film of the same name, starring River Phoenix, as well as a Levi’s jeans commercial. Overall, the song has charted nine times in the US Billboard 100, seven of them covers by artists including John Lennon.

In March 2015 the Library of Congress inducted King's original version into the National Recording Registry, saying "it was King's incandescent vocal that made it a classic."

King shared songwriting credits on "Stand By Me" with Elmo Glick, a collective pseudonym for the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who produced the recording session. The Library of Congress also praised the song as "anchored by perhaps the best known bassline in recording history" and for its "soaring string arrangement."

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